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Bernard L. Kowalski
John Brinkley goes in for undercover robberies to catch his father's killer
Before Ed Nelson did a huge volume of TV work, always a reliably good and recognizable actor, he did b-movies, of which "T-Bird Gang" is one. He plays the cultured head of a gang of robbers. His muscle is Tony Miller. The good guy of the movie is John Brinkley. His dad, a night watchman, has been killed by Miller. He joins the gang in order to trap the careful Nelson. In one respect, Nelson is not careful. He appears in a conspicuous white Thunderbird near his gang's robberies. Letting that pass, this is a pretty good little film that carries on the noir tradition of undercover operatives who take risks of discovery and have to get messages to the police. But because of the youth of the gang and the protagonist and the jazz score, it actually seems more in tune with the rebel teenage or anti-authority movies that I mentioned in my review of "The Beatniks" as being an extension of film noir after it had petered out.
Nelson's character is the most interesting, as he plays chess, listens to classical music and exerts total control over his gang of younger thieves. Miller's character is also of interest, with his killer instinct lurking just below the surface, but held in check by Nelson. Nelson's blonde girl friend makes a mark as a dippy, self-centered but bright blonde who beats Nelson at chess.
The story is not original, but it flows along on the strength of both some suspense and the characterizations. There are a few robberies and some night photography. And as a bonus, there is a jazz score done by Shelly Manne and His Men.
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